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Belfast trader caught in Nepal earthquake vows to keep backing country in wake of devastation

By John Mulgrew

Published 12/05/2015

Ian Brown and his wife Gita pictured in Nepal
Ian Brown and his wife Gita pictured in Nepal
At their Yak Shak stall

A Belfast businessman has said he will continue buying his products from Nepal after he was caught up in chaos of the country's devastating earthquake which killed more than 7,500 people.

Ian Brown (38) spoke of fears for his family and his Nepalese wife as they were caught in the area's most devastating earthquake in 80 years during a trip to source products last month. The couple run their business, Yak Shak, selling a host of felt purses, bags and other items from a regular stall at Belfast's St George's Market at the weekend.

And all of the products are sourced directly from Nepal - where Mr Brown's wife Gita is originally from.

And just days after returning from the country - which was left devastated following the quake on April 25 - he's keen to get back to begin buying new products for his growing business in Northern Ireland.

"All our suppliers, I contacted them after a few days and all are OK, thankfully. Most are not functioning, most are from remote areas - those areas have been devastated the most," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"I would like to think I wouldn't be worried [about returning to Nepal] but I won't know until I go back in a couple of months.

"We go out to Nepal every three or four months a year. That's to source products and design new products.

"Business is increasing. In Nepal, businesses have been left devastated, businesses have been wiped out, and lost so much money.

"If we can manage to increase our business here, we can increase trade and employment [for Nepal] and that's something we can be thankful for."

Business has been good for Yak Shak, with the couple now booked into a number of trade shows in Great Britain and the Republic.

They are also planning to launch their own website later this year.

Speaking about being caught up in Kathmandu - Nepal's capital - during the earthquake, he said he was "terrified" his wife and mother had been killed.

And he said it was "a day I will never forget".

"It was very frightening. I thought I was going to die, and I thought my wife was going to die. I thought my mother was dead," he said.

At the time his wife was around 30 miles away from the capital city - and he feared he could have lost her.

"We started getting news that certain parts of Kathmandu had been devastated, including the part where my mother was. She was in the hotel.

"I was trying to control my emotions - not knowing who had died."

The couple have also been involved with their charity work over the last few years, helping to build houses and provide other aid to the area.

And Uday Dholakia OBE - chairman of the National Asian Business Association - appealed for businesses in the UK to continue trading with firms in Nepal following the disaster.

Nepal has traded herbs and spices with the United Kingdom for more than 150 years, and also deals in raw materials and produces utensils.

"Those areas have been affected because of the disruption of the supply. It is key to get cargo and trade," he said.

"These people work, and give their lives, so anything we can do in terms of trade or economic support is obligatory on our part."

Belfast Telegraph

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